New York City Rugby League’s proposed club can fill a gap in the market for American football fans who want a “real contact sport” over the summer months, says chief executive Ricky Wilby.
Their bid to join the Rugby Football League was positively received by member clubs following a presentation.
Ottawa also want to establish a club in the English game, following the lead of Canadian compatriots Toronto Wolfpack.
“We think New York is the gateway to the east coast,” Wilby said.
He told the BBC Radio 5 Live Rugby League podcast: “During the summer months there are no real contact sports. There’s soccer and there’s baseball and American football fans who follow NFL want to watch something.
“That’s our gap in the market. [Australia rugby league winger] Valentine Holmes has just signed for the New York Jets in the NFL and that will play a huge part in us trying to attract fans.”
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Where is the money coming from?
Rugby league has been no stranger to expansion projects, with Paris Saint Germain, Gateshead and London introduced over the years with varying levels of success.
The desire to grow the game, balanced against fears of an unsustainable business, have made some parties wary of bringing the game to new markets.
New York have been in dialogue with the RFL to outline their suitability.
“We’ve two investors, one in London and New York,” Wilby said.
“The Rugby Football League know who they are, they’ve had the proof of funds, the solicitors letters and all the legal documentation that is required.
“They are conducting their due diligence around those two investors, but we’re more than happy should we get a ‘yes’ to open them up to the media and the member clubs.”
Business sponsors ‘already on board’
In their presentation to member clubs, the New York group confirmed they have secured deals with flight partners, who will cover the cost of travel for the team and their opponents.
They also have a hotel partner to accommodate visiting teams and there are also deals with other global businesses.
Wilby confirmed the team will be based in New York, rather than splitting their time between a UK base and Canada as Championship leaders Toronto currently do, with American players the priority.
“We thought that was the only real flaw in the Toronto model,” he added.
“We want to be based in New York, to engage with the community and with the sponsors and be away from the city as little as possible.”
What do current rugby league players think?
Mitch Garbutt, Hull KR prop: “If everything matches up then I think it could be really good.
“I played at Melbourne, where being successful and winning trophies has made it a lot easier.
“It’s a fortress down there with moving everyone down there, you’re away from everyone so you have to build some pretty good bonds.
“The city itself makes it better because it’s a pretty big sporting city.”
Jermaine McGillvary, England and Huddersfield winger: “Expansion is good for rugby league, especially in a city like New York where it’s a massive city for sport.
“If an ESPN or a Fox TV broadcaster could get behind that it would be massive for rugby league and I’m all for expansion as long as it works on a long-term plan.”
Paul McShane, Castleford hooker: “It would be a big attraction, to take your family to go across and live in New York.
“It’s not very often you’d get the chance to move over to New York, particularly in rugby league.”